by Staff Writers
Kegalle, Sri Lanka (AFP) June 2, 2016
Sri Lankan Buddhist monks held funeral prayers Thursday for more than 100 villagers buried in a landslide two weeks ago, as rescuers formally ended the search for their bodies.
In a solemn ceremony near the side of the collapsed mountain northeast of Colombo, dozens of saffron-robed monks conducted last rites for the victims of the rain-triggered landslide that destroyed two villages.
"The families of the victims have told us there is no point in digging through tonnes of mud anymore," said Major General Sudantha Ranasinghe who led the search and rescue effort in Kegalle district.
"Since there is no prospect of finding anyone alive, we have stopped the search operation," he told AFP.
More than 46 bodies have been pulled from the landslide which struck on May 17. But rescuers have now stopped looking for another 103 villagers still listed by the Disaster Management Centre as missing and presumed buried in the debris.
Ranasinghe said a small group of troops will remain in Kegalle to help residents salvage any property from the disaster.
And the military will erect 550 tents in the district to house residents who lost homes in the landslide or are living in areas considered at high risk of further landslides.
The landslide was triggered by the heaviest rains in Sri Lanka in nearly 25 years that also caused flooding in Colombo and elsewhere and forced some 600,000 people from their homes.
Sri Lanka has received emergency aid from other countries, including neighbouring India which dispatched two naval ships and an aircraft loaded with supplies.
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